From Scotland to Jamaica and now to the not-yet-United States, Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) continued their journey on Sunday, November 4, as Outlander returned for its fourth season. The last time we saw the Frasers, they’d survived a series of high seas adventures, rescued Jamie’s nephew Ian from the evil Geillis Duncan, and landed safely in America where a well-deserved rest awaits them. But how long can the happy couple stay that way, as strangers in a young nation on the verge of a bloody revolution? Here’s everything that happened in the premiere, “America the Beautiful.”
A Day at the Gallows
We open in 1767 North Carolina, on a beautiful day … for a hanging. One of Jamie’s compatriots, a man named Hayes (James Allenby-Kirk), is being executed for murder despite his friends’ best attempts to free him. Hayes tells Jamie he can bear the noose if he can just look at a friendly face as he goes — but as soon as Hayes is dead, a scuffle breaks out and several of the other condemned men make a break for it.
That night, surreptitiously conveying Hayes body to be buried in a church graveyard, the group discovers a stowaway: one of the escaped prisoners has hidden himself in their cart. His name is Bonnet (Ed Speleers), and he begs Claire and Jamie to convey him safely past the soldiers hunting for him so that he can rejoin his friends at a nearby river port. Despite the fact that Bonnet is a self-described pirate who has just overheard the group discussing the stash of gemstones they intend to sell — not to mention that he looks like a human weasel — Claire and Jamie agree to help him, sneaking him past a checkpoint and leaving him to find his crew. If this doesn’t register to you in the moment as a terrible idea that they’ll regret later on, you have clearly never seen this show before.
Business and Pleasure
After a sexy night of camping, Claire and Jamie return to town to attend a dinner at the Governor’s home; it’s here that they plan to sell a ruby, for enough money to buy passage back to Scotland. The evening is a success (apart from some colonial bitch who disses Claire’s hairstyle at dinner), and includes a surprising offer from the Governor: he wants to give Jamie a land grant to establish himself in the area, perhaps hoping that a seasoned soldier will prove a useful ally down the road. Claire points out that aligning themselves with the English will put them on the wrong side of history, again, but Jamie argues that he’d like to help shape the country his daughter will one day call home, which is a very sweet idea that in no way addresses Claire’s very legitimate concerns.
Nevertheless, they decide to stay— and so do their friends, including Fergus (Cesar Domboy) and Marsali (Lauren Lyle), who is pregnant. (This comes as a surprise, but maybe Claire’s herbal birth control isn’t 100 percent reliable.)
Rolling on the River
With plans in place to settle in America, the gang sets out for River Run, an estate belonging to Jamie’s aunt (who has been married three times to men who keep inconveniently — or maybe TOO conveniently— dying). It’s all lovely and idyllic — Claire is even delighted to learn that the black man steering their boat is a freed man, not a slave — so naturally, this is when the other shoe drops.
As the group sleeps, the boat is suddenly overtaken by a gang of ruffians, led by (surpriiiiiiise) Bonnet, in a brutal scene that unfolds to the sound of Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful.” Jamie is beaten and robbed, his right-hand man is horrifically murdered, and when a sobbing Claire tries to swallow her wedding rings rather than let Bonnet take them, he sticks his disgusting fingers into her mouth and wrenches one — Jamie’s — free. The episode ends with Jamie still on his knees, looking absolutely furious even as Bonnet’s men are kicking him in the ribs. And forget being on the wrong side of history: with everything he had in Bonnet’s pockets, that land grant is liable to be their only hope.
Outlander airs on Starz on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.